Suit Up!: Why I Choose J.Crew

Nov 18, 2010

There have been a surprising number of comments about my use of J.Crew suits in this week’s Suit Up! posts.  So I thought that I should explain why I am such a J.Crew devotee.

Durability.  In 2005, I purchased my first J.Crew suit.  It was a black, Super 120s wool suit with a one button jacket.  It was gorgeous.  The cuffed trousers were perfection.  The pencil skirt was a multi-tasking dream.  And from that moment on, J.Crew’s 120 line was my brand of choice.

The black suit jacket has worn incredibly well over the years.  There is some damage to the liner, but the outside is pristine.  And given that I wear the suit at least once a week (I’m wearing it now), this is no small feat. 

As for the other pieces, the skirt was replaced after four years of weekly or twice weekly wear.  The trousers, sadly, were destroyed by my clumsiness when I stepped my left heel into the right cuff and ripped them to ribbons.  I still search for them on eBay in the hopes that I will find a replacement pair. 

Perhaps, I should write J.Crew and request that they reissue them as they are the only pair of pants that I have ever loved.

Price.  Yes, a $230 blazer and a $130 pair of pants can be a tough swing for a young Hill Staffer.  But as far as quality suiting goes, paying $360 for something that you will wear 60 or so times per year for five years makes good financial sense. 

If you are a young staffer and can’t afford these prices, you have three options:

1)      Wait for a sale.  J.Crew often has great sales (30% off sale items, 20% off everything, etc.) where you can pick up the suit for much less.  And given the anemic state of the retail market, these sales have become a monthly occurrence.

2)      Charge it.  When I started on the Hill, I signed up for a J.Crew credit card.  I bought three suits and two pairs of shoes, and then I paid off the card over time.  It helped me establish credit, and now, three years later, I am still wearing those suits.

3)      The Gift Rule.  Conversely, my former intern built her professional wardrobe on the backs of gift cards.  She requested that her relatives and friends give her nothing but Visa gift cards for Christmas, birthday and graduation gifts.  Within a year, she had a very enviable professional wardrobe.

Obviously, you could also save up for a suit, which is what most people do.  Because while you could just buy a cheaper suit, having a suit that will last and look good doing it is a much better investment.

Style.  Sadly, there are not a lot of great mid-price suiting options.  Banana Republic sells suits, but I find them to be of questionable quality.  Brooks Brothers sells suits, but the cuts are boxy and antiquated.  Ann Taylor’s suiting has vastly improved in quality, but it requires a bit of tailoring which is an added expense. 

I like the J.Crew suits because they fit well right off the hanger.  The suits have modern cuts that are less boxy than their compatriots, and the styles are often changed to reflect fashion trends. 

J.Crew also does women a solid by consistently offering the same colors and fabrics in new styles.  This way you can have the same suit in a one button jacket, a two button jacket, or whichever style they are currently featuring.  You can also add pants, vests, and skirts at will. 

The fabrics have a good feel and drape to them.  And as anyone who buys suits regularly can attest, fit can be fixed but fabric is forever.  There is nothing I hate more than crunchy, acrylic suit fabric.  Blech.  A nice soft cotton, wool or blend is a suiting must.

I understand that many of you can’t swing these suits for regular wear, right now.  But remember, building a professional wardrobe does not happen overnight.  I have been accumulating suit for five years now.  You can start with one and build from there, just as I did. 

Don’t let your desire for instant gratification stand in the way of a lasting professional wardrobe.

If you need cheaper alternatives, I encourage you to try eBay, consignment shops and outlet stores.  Because while the $90 Arthur Levine suit from Filene’s may look like a great buy now, it won’t last.  Instead, save that money in your sock drawer and tough it out until the J.Crew sale gets going in earnest. 

You’ll be glad that you did.

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  1. AK says:

    I also love J. Crew suits for all the reasons you mentioned! And I've found that the quality at J. Crew outlets is comparable and the prices are even more affordable, and there are J. Crew outlets everywhere — including the Leesburg outlets and Arundel Mills.

  2. gingerr says:

    In many respects I think the intern with the outfits from New York & Co. has the right strategy.
    When you are just starting out, or interning with no pay there is no call to go into debt over your wardrobe.

    Get a suit -jacket/pants/skirt and wear it. The important thing is to look like you belong at first glance. You can replace it r when you're earning a real paycheck. Save your charge card for emergencies —

    Also remember that it's not unusual for a gal to gain a few pounds when transitioning from carefree college student to 9 to 5er.

  3. MCWS says:

    Since fit is so important in making any garment work, it is worth considering alterations policies. I love J Crew suits, but it would take so much altering to make them work for me that it isn't worth it. Brooks Brothers suits fit me better and hold up really well for my extensive traveling. Regardless of where I buy, I have to have EVERYTHING shortened (even petites). BB will do those basic alterations for free. In addition, I've had BB add an extra inside pocket (sized for passport and plane tickets) to my black jacket for a modest sum.

  4. AK says:

    I also love J. Crew suits for all the reasons you mentioned! And I've found that the quality at J. Crew outlets is comparable and the prices are even more affordable, and there are J. Crew outlets everywhere — including the Leesburg outlets and Arundel Mills.

  5. gingerr says:

    In many respects I think the intern with the outfits from New York & Co. has the right strategy.
    When you are just starting out, or interning with no pay there is no call to go into debt over your wardrobe.

    Get a suit -jacket/pants/skirt and wear it. The important thing is to look like you belong at first glance. You can replace it r when you're earning a real paycheck. Save your charge card for emergencies —

    Also remember that it's not unusual for a gal to gain a few pounds when transitioning from carefree college student to 9 to 5er.

  6. MCWS says:

    Since fit is so important in making any garment work, it is worth considering alterations policies. I love J Crew suits, but it would take so much altering to make them work for me that it isn't worth it. Brooks Brothers suits fit me better and hold up really well for my extensive traveling. Regardless of where I buy, I have to have EVERYTHING shortened (even petites). BB will do those basic alterations for free. In addition, I've had BB add an extra inside pocket (sized for passport and plane tickets) to my black jacket for a modest sum.

  7. Second That says:

    Amen sister. My navy super 120s is my only suit, and one of the best purchases I've ever made. I stalked the website until the pieces went on sale (It was late November, early December FYI) and bought them with my J. Crew credit card.

    And Banana Republic quality? I bought two Banana Republic suits the summer that I interned on the Hill, and they were basically worthless at the end of the summer.

  8. prosecutordc says:

    I used to be a prosecutor and wear a conservative suit to work everyday (and the salary is similar to that of a hill staffer). As a curvy person, I simply can't fit into JCrew pants with much luck (without some serious tailoring…which is costly but can be worth it.) I will say this though. I own several Ann Taylor suits from three years ago, which are fabulous. (They used to have stuff in all the same sorts of material so you could mix and match.) But Ann Taylor's lead designer went to Talbots and now there stuff is frankly garbage. And they don't carry many suits anymore at all. I really do like Brooks Brothers, they have modernized many of their styles. If you haven't been in awhile, I suggest you give it another look. They are also incredibly helpful (albeit pricey!). Banana also sells some high quality suits through their website. I bought two and they even did free alterations (hemming) and they have lasted several years. I get compliments on them alot. Finally, Talbots is really gearing itself to the 20 something professional crowd…I used to hate it because my mom wore that brand but I swear, they have some good stuff!

  9. Meg says:

    I have a suit and a few dresses from Talbots. They are great as work-week items that I use as a base, then layer something more stylish on top of (like a necklace, cardigan, jacket, belt, etc). I got the best price by waiting for their 50% off sale items sale, which really helped me snag nice seasonless basics and stay fiscally responsible.

  10. a says:

    I've worn my navy super 120's 2-3 times a week and it still looks new. Only brand I've ever found fits off the rack (not curvy enough for anne taylor, but miraculously have enough curves that theory suits look weird).

    I HIGHLY suggest buying one good suit over multiple cheaper suits. Combine your xmas/bday/graduation presents from your parents/loved ones if you have to. If money is an issue, avoid putting things you can't pay off on credit like the plague – usually even a student loan interest rate is lower (buy a suit when you are in college if you wont be going to grad school).

    This is the reason I like j crew suits the most – “J.Crew also does women a solid by consistently offering the same colors and fabrics in new styles. This way you can have the same suit in a one button jacket, a two button jacket, or whichever style they are currently featuring. You can also add pants, vests, and skirts at will.” You can always buy the pants for your skirt suit once winter starts, know there will always be a replacement if you ruin one part of your suit, or want to mix things up with a suit dress down the road.

  11. AL says:

    While I agree that J Crew has good quality suits, however for petite curvy women, women with good birthing hips, and women with wide shoulders (I have all three), there are not a lot of options out there regarding J Crew (specifically the jacket is what trips me up all the time at J Crew, I try but no dice).

    That being said, my personal body shape plays a lot into the suits I purchase. So ladies, keep trying on the suits at various other stores and you'll find what works for your body. Nordstrom's has some good ones (Halogen and Caslon brands).

  12. Serena says:

    I've experimented with a lot of different brands of suits – I have Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, BCBG, J. Crew, and a few dept. store brands. As far as quality, J.Crew's super 120's is by far the best. The suits just hang right, and the fabric feels amazing. I could be wearing sweatpants – it's that comfortable. I have black and navy suits, and I wear them far more than any of my others. Definitely watch for sales – they put suit pieces on sale often, and the sale stuff is frequently an additional 30% off – I picked up my navy suit for around $200 total this spring.

  13. Kim says:

    AL, I could not agree more regarding the fit. J. Crew suits do not fit me at all! I've found the Classiques Entier brand sold at Nordstorm has become my “go to” brand for suits. It's pricey, but, for me, it's worth it.

    As you said, it's important to try a ton of suits on and find the best fit for you. You may still need some alterations, but if you can find a brand that doesn't require alterations, all the better!

  14. rebecca says:

    I love my J.Crew suits, but stay away from the navy/white pinstripe suits. After just one year the threads started to come out and I sadly had to toss it out only after a couple dozen wears.

  15. N says:

    As an intern, I've had good luck with New York & Company. They're definitely not J. Crew quality, but for $150 for an entire suit (jacket, pants, and skirt!), they've held up well for a year and a half of interning at 3-4 days/week. And they have great pre- & post- Christmas sales where the entire store is 50% off, so I highly recommend them while you're saving up for a “real” suit.

  16. Shadowcat14 says:

    or buy it in college and show your college ID. They have a 15%off college student discount 🙂 Gotta love Jcrew

  17. BJ says:

    Belle, you make my heart beam with the focus on professional attire! I think the discussion of what makes a good suit is really important. Months ago, you recommended J. Crew suiting for its fabric, durability, and style; and it prompted me to shop various price points looking for just that: fabrics, durability, and style. J. Crew happened to be the best option for me, despite my curves (34-27-38). Thank you for helping me to understand what makes a good suit. I am a happy customer and recently forwarded J. Crew a link to your post and told them they should thank you as well for boosting their sales. 🙂

    Every fit isn't for every body… that's what tailors are for. Body shapes run the gamut, and that's not something within a retailer's control. My advice to those who dislike the fitting: look to the J. Crew suit as a model for a good suit and make it work (Tim Gunn style) for you (i.e. tailoring or another store). The price of the suit (and tailoring) is pretty high, but it's the price you pay for something that is of great quality and uniquely fit for you.

  18. AK says:

    I also love J. Crew suits for all the reasons you mentioned! And I've found that the quality at J. Crew outlets is comparable and the prices are even more affordable, and there are J. Crew outlets everywhere — including the Leesburg outlets and Arundel Mills.

  19. gingerr says:

    In many respects I think the intern with the outfits from New York & Co. has the right strategy.
    When you are just starting out, or interning with no pay there is no call to go into debt over your wardrobe.

    Get a suit -jacket/pants/skirt and wear it. The important thing is to look like you belong at first glance. You can replace it r when you're earning a real paycheck. Save your charge card for emergencies —

    Also remember that it's not unusual for a gal to gain a few pounds when transitioning from carefree college student to 9 to 5er.

  20. Chelsea says:

    I'm in the same boat as the ladies who are petite and curvy, and I cannot recommend Theory enough. Like the J Crew suiting, it's pricey (in fact, much pricier full price) but if you watch for sales you can get a full suit for about $200 (I have 2 now). I have gotten most of my pieces at Nordstrom Rack, and they are incredible–I have had people approach me in the street to compliment my pants! And I have worn the pieces weekly for the last year and frequently before that, and they have held up really well. They also have lots of seasonal colors (very few bolts of fabric produced), and because of that I have been able to get separate suiting pieces that match on Ebay after the season.

  21. Kim says:

    AK, I agree with you regarding alterations…to a point. Sure, you can get something altered and, to find a perfect fit, it's likely going to be necessary. But, you want to start with something that fits well and get little tweeks, not get something because it's a “good suit” and spend an absolute fortune in tailoring, which is what I would have to do to get a J. Crew suit to fit my 40-28-41 frame. I'm glad you've found that J. Crew works for you, though! IMO, their suits seem to be cut really well for a good majority of people, which is hard to achieve.

  22. Jill says:

    Everyone raises interesting points. One word of advice on J. Crew sales — the “final” sale items aren't returnable — risky if you're buying online, especially something that can be tricky to fit (like a jacket). They send e-mail notices of sales and special promotions, so it can get very tempting to shop online. I think regular sale items are returnable. And they do warn pretty prominently when items can't be returned.

  23. MCWS says:

    Since fit is so important in making any garment work, it is worth considering alterations policies. I love J Crew suits, but it would take so much altering to make them work for me that it isn't worth it. Brooks Brothers suits fit me better and hold up really well for my extensive traveling. Regardless of where I buy, I have to have EVERYTHING shortened (even petites). BB will do those basic alterations for free. In addition, I've had BB add an extra inside pocket (sized for passport and plane tickets) to my black jacket for a modest sum.

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